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The Relationship between a Common Virus and Breast Cancer

The Epstein Barr Virus is one of the most common diseases, with an estimated ninety percent of all of the human population having been infected by it. The virus is a part of the herpes family of viruses, and is transferred with ease by either the sharing of saliva, or by secretions from the genitalia of the individuals.

  • Though symptoms are rare, some individuals may face issues: Almost all adults who have sex will get the virus at some time, and fifty percent of all five-year-olds show evidence of being previously infected. The thing is that most people carrying the disease don’t show any signs of being infected, though in a few cases, some carriers end up getting glandular fever, also called infectious mononucleosis, or mono.
  • Epstein Barr Virus hits both the immune system and tissue linings: The virus manages to infect two significant types of cells. The first, B-cells, are vital to the functioning of the immune system while the other cells affected, called an epithelial cell, are seen in the linings of the cavities in the human body, the blood-carrying vessels, as well as organ tissues. The virus has also been linked to cancer like gastric adenocarcinoma, nasopharyngeal carcinoma, leiomyosarcoma, and Hodgkin’s disease. More than two hundred thousand malignant tumors are caused by Epstein Barr Virus every year.
  • Recent studies have also linked the virus to breast cancer: A group of researchers from the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and Harvard Medical School created a culture of breast cells in an environment containing Epstein Barr virus, and found that the virus bound itself to a receptor known as CD 21 on these cells. These cells then kept dividing.

The genes of these cells implanted in mice were examined, and some characteristics that were linked with aggressive cases of breast cancers like estrogenreceptornegative breast cancer were seen.

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